WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Justin Bartholomew reports that Pentucket Regional School District will look to follow a hybrid teaching model this fall, with plans to transition to fully remote learning should local and regional COVID-19 cases climb significantly.
“The wellbeing and health of all of our community members is our utmost priority, and given the realities of this virus and the guidance we have received from DESE, a hybrid model presented itself as the most realistic and safe way for us to return to school for partial in-person learning,” Superintendent Bartholomew said. “A tremendous amount of thought, time and collaboration went into the creation of this plan, and we are so thankful to everyone who participated in this process.This is a fluid situation and we will continue to provide updates to all of our stakeholders as we learn more and as the climate surrounding this virus continues to evolve.”
The district’s plan for the 2020-2021 school year was approved by the School Committee at its meeting today. In July, the process of crafting the plan began as groups of administrators, educators, local health officials, first responders and parents representing each school meticulously developed feasibility plans for each facility. Middle and High School students also participated, and in all, 82 people took part in the districtwide feasibility plan process. The plans were shared with the Superintendent’s office in mid-July, and the districtwide plan was then developed reflecting the feasibility data by a working group of central office administrators, School Committee Chair Dena Trotta and the President of the Pentucket Association of Teachers President Mike Wendt.
The district also remained in close communication with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as it crafted the plan, and as guidance continued to evolve over the summer as more information has been made known about COVID-19.
Following today’s vote by the School Committee, the plan will now be submitted for final approval to DESE.
Last week, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey Riley reduced the number of school days required for students from 180 to 170, allowing schools to instead provide additional training and preparation opportunities for educators prior to the start of the school year.
Students will be divided this fall into two groups (cohorts) district wide. The district has worked to place students from the same family within the same group to make the transition easier for families.
Students will first take part in an orientation during which each school will be at 25% capacity, and each group will be further divided into two smaller sub-groups (sections). The orientation will take place over four days from Tuesday, Sept. 8 through Friday, Sept. 11, during which time Cohort A, Section 1; Cohort A, Section 2; Cohort B, Section 1; and Cohort B, Section 2 will separately report on their designated day for in-person learning. During the orientation, students will review new school protocols to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for everyone, and will also get to know their teachers and participate in social-emotional wellness exercises. No remote learning will take place for the students who are not scheduled for orientation on a given day.
The district will transition to a 50% in-person, hybrid learning model on Monday, Sept. 14. The 50% in-person hybrid learning model will schedule a remote learning and teacher preparation day on each Monday, and students in Cohort A will report to school in person on Tuesday and Thursday. Students in Cohort B will report to school in person on Wednesday and Friday. When students are not in school for in-person learning, they will take part in remote learning.
The district has also cultivated a remote learning plan that will be notably different than the “emergency teaching” educators conducted after schools were forced to close due to COVID-19 this spring. Should the district need to move to a 100% remote learning model, students will take part in a remote learning experience that is more synchronous with their teachers and will follow a class schedule.
The district will implement numerous new policies and procedures in an effort to protect the health and wellbeing of all students, faculty and staff, and those initiatives will include:
- Requirements that all students in all grades wear face coverings in school.
- Backup masks will be available in school.
- Plastic face shields are not a substitute for masks.
- Mask breaks will be given for students periodically during the day, during which they may distance beyond six feet from one another while not wearing a mask outdoors or in large spaces.
- Adequate room for social distancing at all times.
- At 50% capacity, students and staff should be able to maintain social distancing of no less than three feet at all times, and up to six feet in nearly all classrooms.
- One-way traffic in hallways, where needed.
- Outdoor spaces will be used as often as possible for instruction.
- Students will be required to maintain a six foot distance from others while eating.
- Frequent hand washing breaks will be implemented throughout the school day.
- Hand sanitizer will be available in every room.
- Students will be required to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after using playground equipment.
- Parents and guardians will be asked to monitor their children and teens for symptoms of the virus daily. To review symptoms of COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website by clicking here.
The district has also developed strict protocols should there be a positive case of COVID-19 in school, and students and their families are reminded to stay home when sick.
Community Live Stream
Superintendent Bartholomew will be hosting a community live stream for district families tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 6 p.m. Click here to access the live stream.